To veil or not to veil

A veil is a piece of cloth, just like a beard is only facial hair. It does not say Muslim or non-Muslim. It is a physical symbol which portrays what an individual feels.

Manal Shakir August 05, 2010
First it was Egypt to take action against the veil, after a top cleric announced that the face veil was to be banned in certain educational institutions in Egypt; then France followed suit, down-right banning the face veil for security reasons; and then Syria in toe, banned the face veil in universities and educational facilities because parents of university students do not want their children to be educated in an ‘environment of extremism’. And to add to the list, certain European countries are now debating whether they should give in to the face veil ban, or allow citizen’s their democratic rights to practice their faith (however they want), but at the expense of national security.

Apparently, the face veil is becoming more and more threatening to the global community, and has raised quite a debate.

In my opinion, as a Muslim woman, I do not think we should let a veil define us.

Whether an individual be Muslim or non-Muslim, no piece of cloth, or lack there of, should define him or her.

The sensitivity lies in the semantics of modesty in Islam.

As a Muslim woman who has grown up in both the Muslim world and the non-Muslim world, I’ve had a chance to experience all kinds of Muslims, and it is not the clothing that has defined anyone (although culturally, it does in some cases), it is the individual’s mentality and/or actions.

Wherever you go, there will be Muslims who believe in hijab, burqa or niqab and there will be others who do not, just like in every religion, there are certain issues which will always be debated.

In my opinion, in religion there are a few definitive ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ because of interpretation, modernisation, etc, and those ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ are different for everyone. Some people look at their religion and change their lifestyle to fit their religion. Others maintain the life they want to live, and change their religion to fit their lifestyle.

If politicians in France (with the largest Muslim population in Europe) or Syria want to ban the face veil, then unfortunately or fortunately, it will be done, because being a citizen of that country, one has to obey the law. Just as in Saudi Arabia, there are rules and regulations one must follow, and whether you agree with it or not, is of no consequence. A woman in Saudi Arabia cannot fly anywhere without the consent of her mehram. A woman in Saudi Arabia cannot drive. Unfair? Maybe, however, these rules and actions are justified by the ruling elite; therefore it is a law that has to be followed, and unless and until someone raises the issue with their own governments, nothing can be done.

I don’t believe I can stand on one side or the other of the veil debate, because as someone who does not wear a veil, the law has no impact on me personally, but I would like to know how women in France or Syria feel about the decision. Maybe a veil is their way of expressing themselves, or maybe they are forced to wear it, I don’t know, but while it could be a number of reasons, I think if there is a big enough fuss about it in these respective countries, the French Muslim population and Syrian Muslim population can deal with it through their political process.

I don’t believe this debate should be taken out of context, I believe people need to keep things in perspective. A veil is a piece of cloth, just like a beard is only facial hair. It does not say Muslim or non-Muslim. It is a physical symbol which portrays what an individual may feel on the inside, and as long as no one is forcing you to change what you believe, a piece of cloth should remain what it is, an inanimate object.
Manal Shakir A freelance journalist in Chicago, IL who tweets @ManalShakir1
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


m.abu bakar siddique shah | 13 years ago | Reply I strngly agree that purdh system should be introduced in all educational institutions. Because educational institutions are the symbols of morality. Girls are wearing tight fitting suit to arise sentiments in opposite sex with using purdh.
saher | 13 years ago | Reply veil is a cultural symbol not religious... yes hijaab is.. it is part of women's satar... facial veil just isnt.. it was in their culture.. they used to veil themselves wen going out because of the weather.. even we do it wen the weather is harsh. it is specifically not allowed during hajj.. ?? whyyyyyy?????? having said this... it should be the right of the person to wear the veil or not.. but please dont make it a symbol of piety of muslims.. arabs yeah, may be.
Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ